As a concept, customer education has been growing in popularity for several years. Why? Because of its capabilities provide an interactive and engaging way for companies to impart vital knowledge and advice – turning people into more informed consumers.
And, supporting that very statement, research shows consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product or service once they have learnt something from content. So, providing an audience with the relevant tools can be absolutely crucial for businesses when reaching out to a wider market and tapping into new ways of generating leads.
With the power to reach more people, provide tracking and insight for ROI, companies are investigating learning tools even further in their quest to provide better value online for prospects and long-term customers.
As several organizations move towards a service subscription-based model to tackle a greater need to connect, it’s even more imperative to work on ways to retain – and support – audiences in the digital world.
There are so many strong examples of where customer education has been delivered successfully – none more so than Whole Foods Market. Offering key content to teach people about the products they consume, the organization shared recipes to inform shoppers about sustainability – empowering them to make healthier, better choices.
In the area of direct learning, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors used online training to appeal to its 125,000-strong worldwide membership including in the UK, mainland Europe, China and the Middle East. Its decision to offer information through distance and eLearning methods proved vital – with 20,000 users enrolling in a year, and affiliates in more than 100 countries purchasing the technology.
There’s also the example of Fender Guitars, which suffered from a customer adoption problem with 90% of new guitar players quitting in the first 12 months. The company introduced a digital learning platform to allow people to teach themselves. By addressing the problem head-on – and providing the tools for customers to manage their own education – Fender offered something different for the electrical guitars market.
This progress doesn’t stop at online content. More companies are now exploring how voice recognition can improve the learning experience – an obvious ‘go-to’ being Amazon’s Alexa. This device allows people to ask a range of questions, gain knowledge by the second and find out how to use a product or service – without even stepping foot into a store, or queue, to speak to someone.
Estate agency Hunters tapped into such voice communication recently too – using Webanywhere designed technology to allow customers to ask Alexa about their home’s valuation, as well advice on the selling process.
Not all customer education success is down to the digital elements – though it helps. It’s about offering what people want, and meeting a need. For example, Barclays did exactly that when it launched its Digital Eagles project in 2013 to train older people in how to access its services, such as online banking. With economic pressure increasing, the bank realised many branches might not be as readily available, and introduced the project – which is still going now.
However, despite all the above examples, the question still remains – where should customer education sit, and who should drive it?
When you look deeper into this thorny question, there is a cross-over between customer education, learning and development and marketing. An audience doesn’t necessarily appreciate being ‘sold’ to, but they do want knowledge – so how do businesses tackle this conundrum?
The best ways for marketing departments to leverage their power is to engage with insightful content that teaches people something they might not already know. For example, providing an audience with value and guidance can prove far more effective than shouting about a particular product or service.
When something is learned, they remember the source. So, companies need to ensure their marketers work harder to nurture customer education – with valuable, informative content that also triggers SEO. A listened-to audience can transform into word-of-mouth advocates as well, further boosting brand equity.
So, returning to the original question of who should own customer education, there are cases for several departments within an organization.
In marketing, team members can create impactful messages and have the tools to measure success – and failure – of a project. However, with little to no experience in learning, could this lead to resources being stretched even more than they were before?
In that case, should learning and development lead the way? Quite frankly, it’s at the heart of what they do. These guys also know how to put together digital learning that works, and it would only take certain elements of upskilling to ensure customers were on the right tracks in terms of their education.
The third option would be for product teams to take ownership. These are the professionals who know the item or service inside out – its capabilities and limitations. It makes complete sense for this department to handle customer education – especially for digital products – however, the question could come back to there not being enough experience in education, yet again.
Knowing which area of a business is the best fit ultimately comes down to the audience, and the structure and capability of an organization. There are cases for each team to have involvement in the process and – with a well-rounded strategy that supports learning, offers engaging content and provides knowledge – this can truly benefit a company’s ability to grow. Getting the final decision absolutely right for the customers, could have a huge impact upon a firm’s critical ROI.
Conor Gilligan is Vice President of eLearning training provider, Webanywhere.